These goals changed the history of national football

These goals changed the history of national football
Photo: Youtube screenshot

The history of the Croatian Football League is short but turbulent. 

In 28 editions of the elite class of the Croatian football to date, we have seen absolutely everything: from only one club's overwhelming dominance to winning championships "on the last ball" followed by big celebrations. The history of the Croatian Football League is, at least to the same extent, defined by the skills on football fields as well as the events outside of the football field, whether it was referees' mistakes, great rivalries or even a fight for asserting dominance in the entire national football.

We bring you a list of the most important goals in the history of the Croatian Football League. Each of them is a crucial part of each story of the Croatian Football League, and many of them left consequences in the overall image of the Croatian football even 10 or 15 years later. 

Zoran Vulic's goal for Hajduk in the direct battle for the championship title (1994) 

Zagreb waited for Hajduk four rounds before the end in the Kranjcevic Street Stadium. It was a direct battle for the championship title, where they entered with equal scores, and Hajduk's third away match in Kranjcevic Street Stadium in the Croatian National League, but they lost both times. However, in the sixtieth minute, Vulic took a free-kick from 35 meters and overcame Miroslav Zitnjak at the home goal. Split won the title despite the defeat by Rijeka in the penultimate matchday. Traumatized by this defeat, Zagreb lost a point as soon as the next round (winning counted for two points back then) in Zadar and said goodbye to the championship title. 


Mario Mestrovic's goal for Hajduk which helped Croatia to win the championship title (1996)

The championship's last round is being played with three clubs in the battle for the championship title- Varteks, Dinamo and, Hajduk. Hajduk hosts Varteks, and by winning, Varteks certainly clinches the title. Dinamo has to defeat Zagreb in Kranjcevic Street Stadium and hope that Hajduk won't allow Varteks's victory. Hajduk is the champion only if they beat Varteks, and if Dinamo doesn't win against the city rival. 

In the seventy-ninth minute of the match, a historical moment happened. Mestrovic's goal gave Hajduk the lead, and it remained the only score of the match. It was the only time in history that the Bad Blue Boys lit their torches to celebrate Hajduk's goal. Dinamo did its job by pulling a convincing show in Kranjcevic Street Stadium, but it also paid attention to what's happening in Poljud. The moment that Hajduk scored, it was clear that it would be difficult for Varteks to gain back that advantage, and Dinamo fans started celebrating.

That's the way Hajduk helped its bitter rival to win the title. Although the former management justified itself to their fans that they hoped for Dinamo's blunder and Hajduk's championship title, there's another side of the story. At the time, Hajduk was managed by the Croatian Democratic Party's lobby, and it's not hard to imagine that Hajduk was ordered to help Croatia Zagreb (the former name of Dinamo) by the central party's directive from Zagreb. Given that Croatia Zagreb led 0:3 at half-time, one of the two versions seems to be closer to the truth. 

There's also a legendary story that a helicopter with a black bag landed on the Hajduk's training ground. There was money inside that the top brass of the Croatian Democratic Party had sent as a pledge for Hajduk's help to Croatia Zagreb.


Varteks fans were extremely dissatisfied with the referee's decisions on the match. Along with an unawarded penalty kick, the then manager Luka Bonacic's statement is legendary: "An assistant referee looked like the Statue of Liberty. He hasn't lowered the flag throughout the entire half-time, he signaled offside every time we were in possession of the ball." One of the most impressive post-match moments was when the present-day Croatian national team manager, Zlatko Dalic, cried in the locker room.



Stanko Bubalo's goal for Osijek in the most controversial match of the Croatian sport (1999)

It's the best-known match in the history of Croatian football. Rijeka needs a victory on their home turf to win the first title in history. At the end of the first half, Stanko Bubalo's goal for Osijek's leadership shocked the home team. Rijeka tied the score with Musa's goal from a suspicious penalty kick. It was eighty-eighth minute of the match, Barnabas Stipanovics's throw-in from the right somehow came under Admir Hasancic's feet, the legendary Bosnia and Herzegovina's football player, he scored the goal, and Kantrida went crazy. Only for a few seconds, as it turned out.

The referee Zoran Krecak made the most famous refereeing decision in the history of the Croatian sport and awarded "a phantom offside," which sent the title to Maksimir. The referees' and logistical favoring of Dinamo during those years reached its peak right in that match when it became evident that it's almost impossible to win the championship while the Croatian Democratic Party and Franjo Tudjman were in power.


Although refereeing interventions made the final match of the season the most famous, the key moment of the season happened earlier when Rijeka hosted Hajduk in Kantrida. In a spectacular match full of turnovers, Rijeka was leading 3:2 until the stoppage time, and in that case, they would have gone to practically unreachable eight points lead over the Blues. But Marin Biliskov's goal in the last seconds brought Hajduk and Dinamo to life and brought the decision on the champion down to the last match of the season.


Dalibor Poldrugac's goal for Zagreb's title before the Bad Blue Boys ended the match (2002)

 

The first title in the history not won by Hajduk or Dinamo, went to the cult crew from Kranjcevic Street. The crucial moment happened three rounds before the end of the championship with a dead heat between Zagreb and Hajduk. Zagreb awaited Dinamo, and in the eighty-seventh minute, the score was 1:1, which would make Hajduk's journey to the new championship title much easier. 

In eighty-eighth minute, Poldrugac scored for 2:1, and then the Bad Blue Boys stole the show. They ran into the field and caused the end of the match in the stoppage time because they didn't want Dinamo to help the fierce rival win the title by scoring a potential goal. 

Zagreb was six points ahead of Hajduk, which they didn't gamble away until the end, and they officially ensured the title in the next round in Cakovec. 


Mate Brajkovic's goal for Zadar that helped Stimac's Hajduk (2004)

 

 

It's the Champions League and the very finals of the season 2003-04. The Croatian football is at the peak of the battle between Mamic and Stimac for taking power over the Croatian football, and on the field it was translated as the battle for the title between Hajduk and Dinamo. In the previous round's derby, Dinamo celebrated the victory over Hajduk with 3:1 and took first place. Still, they played the away match in the next round in Stanovi stadium. In the league that was logistically clearly divided in "white" and "blue," Zadar was Hajduk's bastion. 

The people of Zadar were doing everything to help Hajduk win the title, and Torcida sang the song "Igraj, Zadre, volim te" ("Play, Zadar, I Love You") for the good part of the match between Hajduk and Rijeka. Brajkovic managed to nullify the lead that Kranjcar gave to the Blues, and clear Hajduk's path to the championship title, which they would eventually win.

The absolute football player of the match was Tvrtko Kale, who stopped at least ten promising chances and shots by the Blues. It was one of the turning points in the history of the Croatian football and the battle for the throne, in which Zdravko Mamic would emerge as the winner, although it didn't seem that way at the time. A red card was earned in the stoppage time by Hrvoje Custic, who tragically died afterward.

Ivica Karabogdan's goal for Slaven Belupo and Dinamo's mid-table finish (2005)

This is the only goal mentioned in the text that isn't directly related to any championship titles, but one of the most famous stories of the Croatian National League- Dinamo's mid-table finish. In the last round before dividing the league, Dinamo played the away game in Koprivnica and needed one point for joining the battle for the championship. 

The Blues attacked but were shocked by Musa's goal for 1:0 in the twenty-second minute. Two minutes later, Ivica Karabogdan scored the second goal, too. The match finishes with 3:1, but Karabogdan's escape in front of Sedloski remains the most remarkable image of that generation of Dinamo, as well as the final proof of their weakness and fall. 

The goal has also got historical importance regarding the fact that the collapse of results would give Zdravko Mamic free hands to take absolute power over Dinamo, and eventually, the entire Croatian football. After the match, Ilija Loncarevic got fired as Dinamo's manager, and Zvjezdan Cvetkovic replaced him. The Blues were managed by the record-breaking five coaches that season. 


Dragan Blatnjak's goal for Hajduk and the shameful title win celebration (2005)

In the Champions League without Dinamo, Inter and Hajduk are in charge. In the penultimate matchday, the Giant from the suburbs awaited Hajduk and could have reached the top of the table by potential victory.

The "seesaw" lasted up until the sixty-ninth minute when Blatnjak scored for Hajduk's lead, by which Hajduk made the last step towards the title. By tieing the score in stoppage time, Guic brought hope that the miracle in the last round was possible, but then one of the most shameful shows in the history of the Croatian National League happened.


Hajduk needed the victory over Varteks on Poljud to confirm the title. Until the twentieth minute, the away team had already taken the ball out of the net four times, and they looked, at the very least, disinterested in the field. The then-coach of Varteks, Ciro Blazevic, becomes Hajduk's manager after that game, which was the final act of sleazy Croatian Football League's show, now directed by Igor Stimac. Up until this day, that is the last Hajduk's title. 

 

 

That ended the craziest season in the history of the league, because if someone told you at the beginning of the season that Dinamo would play in the relegation zone, that Niko Kranjcar would celebrate the title in Hajduk's uniform, and that Inter would stay in the race for the title until the last round, what would you have said?

Sivonjic's goal for Dinamo in the match Cibalia is still accused of holding back in the match (2009)

The season of 2008-09 was the last one in which Hajduk could rival Dinamo, with the logistics and the players. On the contrary, at the beginning of April, it was leading in the table. Osijek played the away match, while Dinamo was under the extremely unpleasant Cibalia's feet. The people of Vinkovac were getting better and better and led with 2:0 until the seventy-first minute.

At that moment, Krunoslav Jurčić made a key move by bringing young Ivan Tomečak on the pitch who scored two goals in ten minutes and set up for Sivonjic's goal for the Dinamo's turning point. 

The drama didn't end there, because Lukačević scored for 3:3 five minutes before the end of the match so that Sivonjic would again bring all three points for Dinamo in the ninetieth minute. Hajduk lost in Osijek, and shortly after, with defeats against Varteks and Rijeka, passed the title to Dinamo. However, there's no doubt at all that the match in Vinkovci was the breaking point of the championship.

Even nowadays, the question remains if Dinamo scored the third goal from offside and if Cibalia was holding back in the match. Although Tomečak is the true hero of the match, Sivonjic's goal for 3:4 was the one that turned the championship in Dinamo's benefit.

 

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